April is Autism Awareness Month and as it is drawing to a close, I wanted to post at least once more on autism and the way it affects individuals.
Many of my readers already know that my grandson, Brandon, has Asperger's Syndrome. In March 2007, I saw an article in our local paper about the farm where I take the boys. It focused on animal therapy for individuals with disabilities both visible and invisible. It mentioned that animal therapy could aid those on the autism spectrum. I phoned the farm and made an appointment for Brandon to be assessed.
The farm accepted Brandon for animal therapy. Shortly thereafter, I had Jordan assessed. Both boys were eligible and so started our weekly trips to the farm.
At that time, there were numerous goats and horses at the farm. The boys saw pregnant goats, met the babies when they were born and experienced farm life. They bonded with the animals and learned about life and death. Because I grew up on the farm I wanted them to experience the circle of life and to understand that life is fragile. I also wanted them to benefit from the animal therapy.
Brandon has come a long way in the last year. He has learned to do things that he said he would never be able to do. He learned that he could sit with a baby goat on his lap and whisper his deepest fears and his secrets in its ear. He had no fear of that baby goat telling anyone what his feelings were. He didn't have to worry about the goat laughing at him or bullying him. The goat didn't care that he was different or that he thought a different way. The goat only wanted his love and to return that affection.
Today when I picked the boys up for the farm, Brandon was having a bad day. By the time we got to the farm, he was having a meltdown - not a major one, but a meltdown just the same. He said he was tired. He said he was sad. He didn't really know what he wanted to say, nor did he know what to do about it. At first he wouldn't get out of the car and so Jordan and I got out and left him. Sometimes that is the best thing we can do - give Brandon some quiet time. It didn't take long for him to get out of the car and we went to the barn. It was a chilly day with a strong wind and he complained all the way. I just kept the boys moving.
Once we were in the barn, Brandon headed to the stall where Matthew, the lamb and Chrissy, the baby goat are penned together. The babies were vying for Brandon's attention and it wasn't long until he was interacting with the animals. Then we saw Crackers lying in the paddock. I immediately wondered what was up as horses don't often lie down. We kept our eye on her and eventually she got up and was walking away from us. She was walking funny and I wondered if she was having some problems, but the more we watched her, the more we realized that there was something wrong with her back leg. She was lame and limping.
Brandon got so caught up with the animals that he forgot about his own troubles. He was in a much better mood as we headed home. The animals had worked their magic in his life once again.
Animal therapy has helped both of the boys a great deal, but I think it has helped Brandon the most in some ways. They are both learning lessons in the realities of life by watching the happenings on the farm. I would recommend animal therapy for anyone who is experiencing either physical or mental challenges.
Research has proven that animal therapy is good for people who are on the autism spectrum and Brandon has definitely benefited from having the animals in his life.
If you would like to read more about Asperger's and animal therapy, there is a good article HERE! Have a great Wednesday and remember to be kind to those who are different. Wouldn't this world be a dull place if we were all the same? ~Blessings, Mary~